Challenging the Notions of Loyalty in State of War by Thomas Conlan

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Loyalty and honor are of the highest value in the eyes of the samurai. This is a statement that many scholars and young educated persons believe to be true on the basis of assumption. Thomas Conlan challenges this preconceived notion of loyalty and honor in his book State of War by piecing together a much more difficult and situationally based definition of loyalty which differed depending on the samurai and by observing how times of war and hardship truly challenged an individual’s sense of honor. Loyalty is a difficult term to define when considering a couple of key factors. First of all, samurai had more than one aspect in which to be loyal. Samurai had to be loyal in respect to themselves and their own personal moral code and…show more content…
Other cases of disloyalty didn’t cause quite the ruckus that Fukusuke’s supposed disloyalty did. A samurai named Mori Motoharu changed sides multiple times without consequence. Motoharu started fighting with loyalty to Ashikaga Takauji, rebelled against Takauji in 1350, only to end up fighting for him again in 1360. Loyalty to oneself directly deals with doing what one believes is morally correct versus what one is forced to do when backed into a corner. The decisions between right and wrong aren’t blurred but harder to abide by when in times of war and suffering. Samurai had to make less than honorable choices such as stealing from temples, travelers, and merchants during rough times. Integrity of the samurai were also challenged in times of war. Rewards could be granted for losses, such as losing a horse or a disciple (armor weapons) or getting injured. A samurai could gain status among his peers by killing a noble warrior and presenting this noble warrior’s head in proof of killing them. Both reward, such as land, money, or compensation, and status were important to samurai, more so to some than others, and thus challenged their honor and integrity. Many samurai abandoned their moral to attempt to cheat the system in order to gain. Embellishing a
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